Remember the time of the parlor from Victorian days--a room maintained primarily to receive visitors? The furniture was pretty formal and uncomfortable, the pictures were of long-gone ancestors, the walls were dark and the furnishings austere. For a time the modern living room was thought of in much the same way--a fairly formal room kept so through a minimum of use, a room with no clutter and an unused feel to it. A room to keep dusted and ready for an infrequent formal or semi-formal use. That traditional utilization of the living room is changing. In fact, in some homes the wall between the living room and the den has been removed making the combined area one large great room where the family gathers to play and have fun.
Contributing to this changed concept of the living room has been the general shift to a more informal, laid-back lifestyle. The living room is being seen as more of a room where "living" is done and done on a daily basis. How do you convert a previously formal, mostly unused area of the home to a gathering spot while still maintaining the room as the area to meet and greet visitors and strangers? The room will still need to be policed and maintained in the event strangers drop by or in case an area more businesslike than the TV room is needed for conversation.
Seating is important in this era when furniture is more for use than just for show as it has been in the past. You want ample seating arranged to facilitate conversation and interaction. You want the sofas and chairs to be comfortable, not just attractive. They should be arranged so that the occupants are naturally facing one another and everyone can see everyone else. Warm, vibrant colors tend to make the room more hospitable. Current family pictures, scrapbooks, contemporary magazines on the coffee table proclaim a lived-in, vital area.
An area to concentrate on in this makeover is lighting. In older living rooms the lighting was just barely adequate because the room was seldom used. The lamps and light fixtures tended to be formal looking and fragile. Today's lighting should be bright and should create a cheery atmosphere, one where reading or game-playing can be easily engaged in.
Another area that can brighten a room and be a conversation piece at the same time is that of floor coverings. Colorful, patterned area rugs can complement the furniture and room décor while conveying warmth and closeness. Intricate patterns or unusual colorations may illicit comments or questions from guests and visitors and serve as conversation starters. Those same area rugs can provide family members with comfort and warmth while playing games on the floor or just taking a nap.
Articles that will stimulate interest and conversation among guests and family members can be left out in view. Trophies or photo albums or vacation souvenirs can be used as natural ice-breakers with visitors while providing the homey touch that indicates that living is done in this room.
Shifting a living room from just a seldom-used formal sitting room into an area where guests and family members alike feel comfortable will take some planning but it can be done without too much trouble or cost. Guests and strangers will find a warm and inviting atmosphere and the family will have another area in which to talk and socialize.